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New data, same old story: Vouchers hurt Ohio’s kids, taxpayers

[May 6, 2021] Even as Ohio continues to expand its ill-conceived EdChoice voucher program to force local community taxpayers to subsidize students in private, mostly religious schools they were always attending anyway, newly available data on the Know Your Charter website demonstrates just how clearly that program is damaging communities.

KnowYourCharter.com was recently updated to include information specifically on the EdChoice Performance Based Vouchers (the only program that tracks voucher recipient test performance). Included in the new data is how much more reliant on local property taxes districts become due to the state diverting funding from public school children to these privately run schools. The Ohio Supreme Court ruled four different times that the state had to reduce property tax reliance. These voucher and charter school programs clearly have done the opposite.

Even more troubling is the new data indicates EdChoice is fueling so-called “White Flight” from Black and brown communities. Students taking vouchers are nearly twice as likely to be White as students in the districts where 95% of the money comes from that are subsidizing those students’ private school tuitions.

“The Ohio Education Association has long fought to shine the spotlight on how these vouchers are draining resources from the approximately 90 percent of Ohio students who attend public schools. The new Know Your Charter data clearly demonstrates what we’ve known all along,” OEA President Scott DiMauro said, expressing special concern for the “White Flight” problem EdChoice is fueling: “these same communities, which have already been failed by years of inequities under the state’s unconstitutional school funding system, are forced to go to the ballot more often for larger levy increases, even though only part of that money actually goes to their kids. It smacks of state-sanctioned segregation.”

This new data allows Ohioans to find out exactly how many students are “leaving” their district with these vouchers and exactly which private schools are receiving taxpayer funded tuition subsidies at the expense of their better-performing public school counterparts. In fact, the Cincinnati Enquirer revealed last year that nearly 90% of all voucher students do worse on state tests than students who attend public schools in the same communities. Despite this, Ohio lawmakers voted late last year to expand eligibility for the EdChoice voucher program and continue its explosive, decade-long growth.

Because there is not currently any direct funding system for the EdChoice performance-based voucher program, public districts must dig into their budgets to pay for the private school tuition of students. In some districts, EdChoice deducts more money per student than is actually provided by the state, so it forces the community to use local funding to offset those losses, creating real consequences like larger class sizes and reduced opportunities for public school students. And even in communities where the deduction is less than what students in the district receive, it forces those communities to rely more on local property taxes to pay for schools.

“To add insult to injury, a large portion of the students who receive EdChoice vouchers have never set foot in the public school that’s losing money to send them to a poorly-performing private institution. In fact, that’s the case for so many recipients, the Ohio Department of Education can’t even provide an overall demographic breakdown for voucher kids, because they’ve never had them in their tracking system,” DiMauro said. “It’s frankly a disgrace and Ohio’s public school children deserve so much better than this broken scheme. OEA is grateful that the Know Your Charter site is able to demonstrate the harm so plainly now.”

The Know Your Charter website still has information about charter school performance and funding, as well as the new voucher information.